I guess I'm a horror film snob, but I like my "creature features" and ghost stories with a little class. Give me Julie Harris in "The Haunting," or Deborah Kerr "The Innocents," or Jean Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast," or Mia Farrow in "Rosemary's Baby." One of my all-time favorite horror films is this macabre tale of a girl with a tragically disfigured face and her mad-surgeon of a father, obsessed with restoring her beauty - no matter the cost.
Directed by Georges Franju and scripted by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac (who wrote "Diabolique" and "Vertigo"), "Eyes Without a Face" is one of the most stylish, suspensful and gruesome films I've ever seen. My sister leaves the room during the surgical sequences - really, truly horrific. The performances are excellent throughout. The physician's assistant is played by the wonderful Alida Valli (of "The Third Man" fame). Pierre Brasseur plays the surgeon and Edith Scob is simply haunting in the titular role. The great Maurice Jarre composed the score. Don't miss this one. Play this on Halloween for all your friends who've never heard of it - and then sit back and watch them squirm. Great movie.
on December 27, 2000
When I first saw this film as a young man, those releasing it in the States were obviously trying to cash in on the hard-core horror market so they released it under the unconcionable title "Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus." This is probably why I laid my $.25 down and walked in to see it. I had a pentient for trashy horror flicks that I don't seem to have entirely outgrown. Anyway...it was obvious even to me that this was a cut above what I was used to seeing. Yes, there were some graphic scenes that would make most peoples' skin crawl, but it was more than that. As I was able to see it again some 40 or so years later I realized why. This movie gets under your skin with haunting imagery and sadness. The story, about a doctor who uses his assistant to kidnap young woumen so he can remove the skin from their faces in order to restore the face of his own daughter, actually started a small sub-genre in horror films. This is by far the best I've seen. The black and white cinematography is beautiful. Few films use light and shadow to the effect they are seen here. And when the daughter is first seen with her featureless, white mask it is one of the creepiest and saddest moments in film. These aren't shallow, evil people we're witnessing here. These are people driven by guilt and dedication, carrying out acts that make sense to them in their circumstances. The mechanics of the plot, particularly those involving the police, are somewhat pedestrian, but there is more than enough here to overcome the minor shortcomings. When the viewer reaches the end of the film, to see the shot of the daughter outside her house on a windswept night, few moments in cinema ever reach the same degree of power, horror and poetry as those caught here.
"Eyes Without a Face" ("Les Yeux sans visage") is a horror film in which there is certain sympathy with the mad doctor, in this case Doctor Genessier (Pierre Brasseur) who is trying to repair the horrible damage to his daughter Christiane (Edith Scob) in a car accident that was his fault. The doctor, helped by his assistant Louise (Alida Valli), has been kidnapping young girls so that he can remove their skin and graft it onto Christiane's ruined face. Not only do the victims die, but the grafts fail, forcing Genessier to try again and again and again. What makes Georges Franju's film work is the inherent sympathy we feel towards the father trying to make his daughter beautiful again, just as we are repulsed by the surgical procedures he uses. Meanwhile, Genessier remains oblivious to what his efforts are doing to Christiane's own tenuous hold on reality.
"Eyes Without a Face" moves back and forth from the sacred and the profane, between the love of a parent for a child and meaningless destruction of human life. Franju conveys this contrast visually through the use of poetic images and realistic scenes. I have read arguments that "Eyes Without a Face" should be considered with "Psycho" as creating the splatter flick, and while it is hard to imagine anything having the impact of Hitchcock's film, Franju's movie is more artistic overall (of course, the shower scene is the master trump when we talk about horror films as "art"). This black & white French film with English subtitles is well worth seeing and could end up on your personal top 10 horror film list.
The "Eyes Without a Face" translation is actually the British title for this 1959 release, which was called "The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus" when released in the United States in 1962, in what must be one of the stupidest titles grafted onto a foreign film in cinema history. Here you have a film that walks a fine line between beautiful visual images, such as when Christiane walks through the house in her mask, and viseral horror, represented by not just the operation scenes but the film's climax. The title is simple and elegant, not to mention appropriate to the story being told, and some suit who heard about Christopher Marlowe while reading an E.C. comic comes up with "The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus." Mon dieu, mon ami!
on September 3, 2013
Near Paris, the brilliant and famous surgeon Dr. Génessier destroyed the face of his beloved daughter, Christiane, in a car wreck. He becomes insane, trying to restore her face through successive transplants of the faces of pretty women abducted by his assistant Louise. Eyes Without a Face is one of the best horror movies to come out of the 1960s (and in the Top 100 Horror Films of All-Time). It was directed by Georges Franju. The film's initial US release trimmed the surgery scene while sequences that made Dr. Génessier appear sympathetic (particularly the scene where he cares for an ailing boy) were also edited. Eyes Without a Face is available here completely uncut for US audiences (total runtime is 90 minutes). The picture and audio have been remastered and both are great quality. In this Criterion Collection deluxe release we get 53 minutes of total bonus content including one new interview with Edith Scob and previous bonus content ported over. Optional English subtitles are available during the main feature and all applicable supplements.
Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 | Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio Formats: French Uncompressed Mono
New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
Audio interview with director Rene Clair
Blood of the Beasts, Georges Franju's 1949 documentary about the slaughterhouses of Paris (new high-definition digital restoration on the Blu-ray edition)
Archival interviews with Franju on horror, cinema, and the making of Blood of the Beasts
Excerpt from Les Grands-pères du crime, a 1985 documentary about Eyes Without a Face writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac
A booklet featuring essays by novelist Patrick McGrath, film historian David Kalat and filmmaker Guy Maddin
NEW interview with actor Edith Scob
Buy this Blu-ray. Fans will find this a worthy upgrade.
on October 23, 2013
This highly influential, engaging and spooky film is one of French director Georges Franju's best works. The core story is a little campy, but it's pulled off with skill and style...enough to make first-time viewers sit up and pay attention, even if they've never seen a horror/mystery film older than "The Exorcist". The clever story, haunting visuals and satisfying ending make "Eyes Without A Face" one of the decade's best, as shown by the countless films it's influenced over the years (most recently Pedro Almodóvar's "The Skin I Live In").
Criterion's 2004 DVD was the first domestic release of "Eyes Without A Face" in that format, and this new Blu-ray beats (or at least equals) it in every department. The A/V presentation is terrific, especially the new master used for the 1080p transfer. The extras are a bit different, though: we get a new interview with actress Edith Scob ("Christiane" in the film, who wears the mask), but the excellent photo and promotional gallery from the DVD is missing here. Otherwise, everything else is ported over or improved, including a new HD restoration of Franju's unsettling documentary "Blood of the Beasts". An audio commentary or more new extras would've pushed this to five stars, but "Eyes Without A Face" is a still a great Blu-ray that die-hard fans and new viewers should enjoy.
For more details, please read my complete review here: [...]
on May 30, 2015
This move was REALLY GOOD. This happened in a lot of burn patient as I have my internship in several clinic. Unfortunately, the donor must match the receiver or else it wouldn't work (unsuccessful skin nor organ transplant). I can't believed how good the make up effect of this movie knowing this was a classic film (1960). I wasn't born when this movie was showed. However, it is very frustrating for those who need skin/organ transplant & can't afford i; there are 2 reason: cosmetic restoration for the well being of the person or to extend/save ones life. I've seen so many in this situation back in my country and they had to lived with it for the rest of their life.
on April 1, 2008
In the book jacket of the criterion dvd producer Jules Borkon told director Georges Franju that in the film there would need to be blood. But not too much blood because of French censors, also no animal torture because it upsets the British, and no mad scientists, since the Germans are touchy about the whole Nazi doctor thing.
As Borkon handed Franju a script about a mad doctor that tortures animals while cutting off women's faces. Sound like a challenge?
Luckily this inspired Franju to step his game up to transcend what might have been a B horror movie into a masterpiece. Franju was also in good company on the film with the writing team of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac who were also the writing team that assisted Hitchcock on Vertigo and Clouzot on Diabolique. Cinematographer Eugen Schufftan to make Franjus vision of realism come to life, Schufftan who had also worked with Fritz Lang and Edgar Ulmer.
Eyes without a face is the story of a Dr. Génessier who is indeed a mad doctor but is not screaming It's Alive, It's Alive like Dr. Frankenstein. On the contrary unlike Dr. Frankenstein he isn't giving life but unknowingly taking his patient's life away. That patient is Christiane Génessie his own daughter whose face was left mangled after a car accident in which her father, as she states was driving insane as he always did.
Dr. Genessie now removes women's faces to transplant to his daughters so she can come from behind a eerie mask she is encouraged to wear. He does this with the help of Louise his assistant who is loyal to the Dr. for giving back her own face through surgery.
Patrick McGrath an author who did a write up on the Criterion case jacket states that the Dr. is not motivated by love but by guilt in creating these horrible acts. I personally did not see that, but a man who had lost his sole and was obsessed with the work itself, after thinking he finally made his daughters face perfect again he stated you can't put a price on that. Christiane herself told Louise that she is a godsend to him to have as a guinea pig as she pleaded for her to kill her. However the Dr. does show moments of being human when he helps a boy, this apparently is what angered our American censors who didn't mind the blood and carnage but giving the Dr. compassion was inexcusable and was one of the cuts made to the film originally.
The film as a horror movie is filed with dread, when a girl is lured back to the house of the Dr. and realizes she made a mistake I could see a lot of our torture films being influenced here like Hostel II for example. However Eyes without a face has motive and plot. And even for 1959 there are moments that make you squirm as the first realistic documentary style face removal, and after his daughter's successful face transplant goes wrong showing photos of her face's deterioration after different amounts of time elapse.
The film is also filled with metaphors and makes you think. For example if this surgery were for the good but horrible acts to a few had to happen in order to benefit many is that alright? Sounds a bit familiar.
Is Christiane's plastic mask symbolic for the masks people are encouraged to put on each day?
Perhaps it symbolizes the mask the director Franju was encouraged to put on this film and the struggle it must have been to rise above it as Christiane must rise up against the evil in her father.
Are parents that try to sculpt and mold their children into what they want because they think it's best are they stopping that child from really living?
I could go on and on, this is a great horror film and great film for any genre. As his film suggests beauty is only skin deep but directors like Franju show how deep a genre hated by many critics such as horror can go.
- New Restored HD transfer (looked pristine
-Blood of the Beasts, Franju's 1949 short doc about the slaughterhouses of Paris
-Archival interviews w/ Franjo on horror, cinema, and the making of blood of the beasts
-Excert from les grands peres du crime, a doc features eyes without a faces writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac (Diabolique, Vertigo)
-Stills gallery of rare production photos and promo material
-New essays by novelist Patrick McGrath and writer and film historian David Kalat (which i refer to throughout the review)
on January 15, 2001
I had never seen this film before and thought I would try it solely based on the customer reviews and AMAZON.com recommendations. I was not disappointed. This is a truly striking film. The movie is French with English subtitles which in no way detracts from its enjoyment for English-speaking viewers. The film is about a guilt-ridden plastic surgeon seeking suitable skin grafts for his horribly disfigured daughter. The daughter's disfigurement was due to an automobile accident that was the fault of her surgeon-father. The "doners" for the skin grafts are unsuspecting, attractive young women. I will leave you, the reader, to take it from there. The acting is superb. The photography is crisp black and white and is rather "artful" in a way. I am not the biggest fan of foreign horror films but this one is good and easy to follow. As far as the quality of the video itself, it is excellent. I obtained the new release from Kino Video and I have no complaints. The video was struck from an excellent quality print with only very minor and very infrequent "speckles of age". The videotape is quality superb and well worth the price.
on August 25, 2004
In a French chateau, a famed plastic surgeon tries valiantly time after time to restore his disfigured daughter's face...driven by guilt since he was responsible for the accident that caused it. Georges Franju's 1959 Gothic shocker still retains the power to disturb unlike other similarly themed horror films. It is grislier than others of the period and stunningly photographed in b&w with haunting images (like the mask) that linger with you for days afterward. The surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) and his assistant (Alida Valli) are obsessively devoted to the daughter (Edith Scob) and don't take into account her personal feelings. Young women are lured to the estate, drugged and used for skin grafts as the daughter stands by helplessly, hoping for a new face. A dreamlike quality to the film makes it all the more disturbing and unforgettable. A collector's find without a doubt and a keeper.
on December 7, 2013
The sheer beauty of this Blu-ray transfer will prevent you from heading toward the door. The crazy score and pace of this accomplishment will keep your backside warm in the chair. The sub titles will insure you won't be leaving anytime soon. Some people have complained about the irresolution of the ending. Tough. What do you think this is; Disney? Want closure? Fire Congress! Want justice? Let your insurance company force you into putting up new siding only to drop your coverage a year later because of the asbestos beneath it which they knew about all along. It's easy to be a Janus faced bastard like the doctor who complains, too late, about the evil he has done. Failed skin grafts? Failed people. Yes, you may just need a mask when you fall out of Eden.